Island musicians make ‘American Song Contest’ history

By having 56 singer-songwriters representing every state and territory, “American Song Contest” spotlighted artists who may not have previously had the opportunity to showcase their talents on a national platform.

Artists from the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Hawaii are all represented on the NBC show hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg. There are veteran artists in the competition, including Sisqó and Jewel, but all the songs performed are originals.

Among his competitors is Jason Jabinigay who goes by Jason J. His parents are from Iloilo, Philippines, but he grew up in Guam where his family settled. He credits his Filipino family’s love of karaoke as well as his love of island music for pushing him to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter.

“What got me into music was growing up in Guam. A lot of my local friends would teach me songs and teach each other songs, and it got to the point where we were playing our own shows. So it was the culture of Guam that introduced me to music,” said Jason J.

He immediately turned to other island contestants when they came together for the competition in Hollywood.

“As soon as I arrived when we got to the hotel, the islanders automatically all tuned in. You know, ‘Hey, are you from Hawaii or Guam or American Samoa.’ And there’s already an automatic connection because we understand the cultures, we understand that it’s just a way of life and respect, and then the four of us islanders started teaching the island energy to the rest of the population.

The music and styles they perform have not had the same level of representation that other genres have enjoyed in other US reality singing competitions on prime time shows. For Tenelle, who represents American Samoa, the inclusion of artists like her in the “American Song Contest” is a game-changer.

“It’s sincere. It’s because it’s respect first, and we’re very careful and intentional with what we sing and how we portray ourselves. It’s not about us, it’s not about us. It’s not for me here to know. It’s about all nationalities, and all of Pacifica, and all of the lineage that I carry on my shoulders today on this stage and therefore, whoever has decided to include the territories , thank you with all my heart because I couldn’t share this story,” Tenelle said.

The artists will return next week to perform their original song and compete for the chance to secure the US vote and qualify for the Grand Finals. Meanwhile, supporters of each contestant can continue to stream their music which has been released on various platforms.

American Song Contest, Island Musicians, Jason J, Jason Jabinigay, Hollywood, TFC News

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